Iguana on the gabion

Iguana
Iguana

For those of you following along I regret to inform you of a potential hitch in the home building process. Burt has a hernia. We’re exploring options. Surgical repair seems to be required as soon as possible if he is going to work this summer. Meanwhile I bring you the iguana. I hear they taste like chicken. I’d rather watch them and eat a chicken.

This month eBird is requiring photos on our checklists if we want a chance in the Leica binocular lottery. I wish someone would just buy me a pair of Leica binoculars and I could ease up on all this citizen sciencing. I don’t mind the 20 checklists but the additional effort for photos is a logistical nightmare for me. Yesterday, between doctor appointments in Cabo San Lucas, we popped out to the estuary and I saw 39 species of birds and a few reptiles. Burt went body surfing while I toted my phone (because they want a map and the GPS is in the app on my phone) and my binoculars and my camera and my purse. My bins strap attachment point broke a few weeks ago so carrying my bins is not hands free. There was a lot of straps and three things for my hands. It was a spastic scene of tech juggling. Not what birding brings to mind. Science! It’s fun! and it’s a nuisance. Any idea on how to rig a strap for the binoculars are welcome. My string solution is suboptimal. I really want to win the Leica.

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule
Great egret
Great egret
Osprey with a hairdo
Osprey with a hairdo
Reddish egret doing its feeding dance.
Reddish egret doing its feeding dance.
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English class contracts and expands

Digestive system
Digestive system

This kid’s group thing we’ve been doing is full of so many complications I never imagined.  There’s been the usual attendance and attention issues. There’s been petty jealousies and cliquishness. And most recently vandalism to our personal property. Minor vandalism but the kind of thing I just feel powerless to deal with constructively. The other day I discovered someone had drawn a black dot about an 1.5″ across on a painting on our property. The dot is in black marker. I suspect the same marker we use for the white board. I know exactly who was using that marker so I have a pretty solid idea who our culprit is and it is an 11 year old child that has been caught stealing and defacing property in another friend’s home. We’ve been trying to manage this child and help them learn a better way to behave in people’s homes. It’s all easy for me to say until it’s my home that is damaged.

Well I was pretty mad but I knew that would dissipate. Burt and I talked. We were both torn. Neither of us wanted to single out anyone. We remembered all of us did stuff like this and any one of the kids could have done it and might do it still. So we had this plan: We’ll just let the group know what happened and we’ll set a new limits. No unattended wandering on our property and no visits to our friends homes as our guests. The message would be simple. If we can’t trust you in our home then we can’t trust you away from home. That would mean no pools, no art galleries, no restaurants. Maybe peer-pressure would change behaviors. If sufficient time passed without further incident we’d  start venturing out again. We hoped it would be enough stick and carrot. So I had it all planned but I still felt heavy.

Yesterday was class day. I walked down to get the kids. My meeting them at their homes to escort them up to our place has dramatically helped attendance. Scary dogs and no watches made on-time arrival sketchy and it’s an easy fix. They only live two blocks away. My two youngest kids (7 and 8 years old) were ready for me. They announced that the 11 year olds had decided not to come. The rumor is class was boring and they didn’t want to do it anymore. Meanwhile an older girl (post high school) was escorting them for he second time. She was not bored. I told them great. We could have fun just us three. And I was relieved. My problem kids had self selected out. Since we’d made an agreement two weeks ago that regular attendance was a requirement for participation unless they had another activity (not merely boredom) I could cut those kids loose. We’d had a group meeting on goals and logistics and they’d agreed to the terms of participation. No pressure on them or me.  Of course, they can change their mind but I have a feeling guilty hearts are the cause of the boredom. The future is hazy…

So the three of us headed up hill and picked up another regular and discussed what we should do. That’s where I learned Edre is studying to be a paramedic. So we hatched a plan to study the human body in detail and in English. Hence the digestive tract below. Just as class got started several long lost students showed up and I was delighted to have them back. Vikki, their adult escort, has been swamped by work for months and she finally was free enough to bring her daughter and nephews. So instead of class being a hard talk it turned into a nice reunion of new and old students on a new subject. We drew the digestive tract, practiced first aid for bleeding, finding a pulse, and sang some songs. The future is still hazy but class was fun.

Working hard
Working hard
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Spay and Neuter Taxi

This kid signed up his three cats. They were all under a year old.
This kid signed up his three cats. They were all under a year old.

I had no idea my offer to shuttle people and pets to a free spay and neuter clinic would end up with me working to keep a cat breathing as its 9 year old owner looked on. That cat survived and the little boy had no idea it was a close call. I didn’t really know how tenuous it was either. I wound up on the ground next to Matt watching him stimulate the four cats he had in recovery and I saw that one stopped breathing regularly. He showed me how a vigorous rub would start them back breathing. So I lent a hand. Pretty soon it was obvious that only a few people had the nerves to deal with the cats. Me, Matt, and our 9 year old friend. Most people went and petted the dogs. They did not stop breathing.

It was simple enough. Rub the cats every 30 or so seconds and flip them every ten minutes. After an hour the kid’s black kitty was still struggling so I pointed it out to a vet tech. She took the cat and gave it a reversal drug and brought it back to us to keep rubbing.  After another hour of stimulation it woke up. Welcome back, Picachu. Meanwhile there were a few other bigger, sturdier cats we rubbed and flipped, too. All the while looking for aspiration or other signs of distress. It was wearying work. We sat on the ground in a sea of animals. Mexicans and foreigners, owners and friends, all keeping a careful watch over our loved animals. The vets and their technicians toiled on endlessly. Burt helped move dogs and tents and shuttled people and pats to and from.

Eventually a cat was brought to me that stopped breathing and I couldn’t get it started back up. I’d been rubbing and compressing the lungs for about twenty minutes as the cat started and stopped breathing. Then it just stopped and did not restart. So much time is unaccounted for as you rub and compress and you can’t see if it’s working. And then suddenly it does work and the vets are so busy, I didn’t want to call if it wasn’t a problem but then it was a problem. I could see this cat was not getting it going. I called for help. The tech came and took it away and brought it back after some reversal drug. I kept at it and after a couple of hours it was clear she would make it through. Then a cat was brought to us that was not breathing. Matt and the kid rubbed as I watched. Nothing. Matt tried the squeeze of a flat palm to the rib cage to create a vacuum in the lungs. Nothing. I called the vet tech, again. She quickly swooped in and took the cat back to the vets. Five minutes later she caught my eye and gave a quick shake of the head. That cat did not wake up. It’s heart (oh, my heart) had gone into arrhythmia and they couldn’t stop it. Our only comfort was that the cat was not breathing when it was brought to us. Somewhere between the table and our sheet on the ground it ran into trouble. We had been vigilant enough.

Ultimately, 135 and 14 cats were sterilized on a soccer field in Todos Santos yesterday. Many professionals and volunteers came together to take a small bite out of the world’s problems.  People wonder how to connect in this weird world. They comment on how much Burt and I do. I say we do so little and there is so much more. This meaningful day happened because I said, “Anyone need a ride?” and then I had my eyes open and saw where I was needed. I know cats. Cats know me. Offer a ride to your neighbor. You might save a life, you might fail, but you can always help. That 9 year old kid with the three cats got his pets home and came back later that afternoon to help the other cats. That is success that can’t be measured.

Thanks to Matt for trusting a total stranger with the lives of our precious cats. Thanks to the staff of P.E.T.S. and DogPrana for all the work they did. Burt and I were so happy to help. You can donate HERE.

The P.E.T.S. veterinarian team. These are Mexican vets and they do this all over.
The P.E.T.S. veterinarian team. These are Mexican vets and they do this all over.
This is the recovery area. The owners and volunteers kept a close watch on the animals. Small dogs and cats are tricky.
This is the recovery area. The owners and volunteers kept a close watch on the animals. Small dogs and cats are tricky.
Calico and marmalade.
Calico and marmalade. Rub and roll.
These chihuahuas have 3 more siblings. They and their mother were all sterilized.
These chihuahuas have 3 more siblings. They and their mother were all sterilized now.
This is the scariest situation. We had to give firm compressions to keep this cat and another breathing. Here the little boy is feeling its heart beat.
This is the scariest situation. We had to give firm compressions to keep this kitten breathing. Here the little boy is feeling its heart beat.
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The shell is almost done

Bathroom floor
Bathroom floor

The stucco is on, both interior and exterior. The floor is poured with expansion and contraction lines cut. The stairs to the roof are under construction. When they are finished the roof will be sealed and our albañiles will be done. Thursday, tomorrow, we’ll drive to La Paz and order the windows and buy some wood for our front door. Next up are the Gypsy Carpenters or, I should say, the Gypsy Carpenter. I’m semi-retired from that line of work. The elbows, wrists, and hands just can’t do that kind of labor for long. And this job is small. Burt won’t need much help. I’ll hold up some studs or cut a board if he needs me but mostly I’m just going to tell him what I want aesthetically. What do I want? Quién sabe? Hmmmm…There’s no rush. I’m leaning towards wabisabi industrial in lavender and gray with apple green accents.

Life is rebooting into our normal routines. The Todos Santos Bridge club added an open duplicate game on Friday afternoon. Burt and I are very happy. Playing once a week was no way to advance our understanding of the game and our partnership. It was too hard to remember anything in between Mondays. The kids are coming back around now that I walk down to their house and escort them past the very friendly dogs they think are dangerous. The migratory birds are leaving but we’re still birding.

I have two book recommendations for you. It’s rare I read a book with the damn phone addiction and music and bridge and birding and yoga but I’m trying to reinstill the habit. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and When Breath Becomes Air. Both are about death and they are both great to read and completely different. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes made me want to be an undertaker (again). It’s funny and informative about the death industry. If you don’t feel like reading it let me advise you to avoid embalming at all costs. You don’t want to know. When Breath Becomes Air is the sad and inspiring memoir of a young neurosurgeon as he dies of lung cancer. The takeaway was find what you want to be and be it. And that can change. Adapt. Live. Love. Serve.

Yeraska
Yeraska. Maybe she’s thinking about my interior design.
The stairs to the roof will be here.
The stairs to the roof will be here.
Site
Site
Exterior/interior
Exterior/interior
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Where are we?

Yellow flower
Yellow flower and ant

Burt and I are back at our Mexican home base and all is well. The work on our house continued in our absence and we have nothing to complain about. The weather here is cool and moist. Actual rain fell two days ago and nighttime temperatures are in the 50s. Spring is upon us. La Primavera is typically damp and cool. Yay for spring.

There’s lots going on that I cannot discuss here. Pescadero politics, infrastructure, Bridge. Suffice it to say we are muddling through trying to help where we can. The kids have all but disappeared recently but have no fear we are rounding them up today for a big meeting to discuss our mission statement and goals. A lack of continuity (illness, travel, school) and kid level politics all contributed to the confusion. So today we’ll see what they want. The kids are in charge. We are going to regroup and move forward. Stay tuned.

My totem animal
My totem animal
Hermit crab
Hermit crab
These 3D signs have taken over Latin America and Mexico.
These 3D signs have taken over Latin America and Mexico.
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Actually it’s the end of Week 5

Pumper truck to the roof.
Pumper truck to the roof.

Here we are at what happens to be the end of week 5 of construction. The structure is complete. Next steps for our team of albañiles (masons) is the half wall on the roof deck and the start of the exterior plaster. Word is the interior scaffolding will remain in place as the roof concrete cures for two weeks. I just looked up the cure curves for concrete to refresh myself. Seven days is generally accepted as 70% strength under optimal temperatures and humidity. We’re pretty close to that here on the Tropic of Cancer, maybe just a little dry and too much day to night temperature swings, for a perfect cure but way ahead of the US right now. So two weeks is well within the margin of error to remove the forms.

The pour was uneventful but a little stressing for me. Our concrete was ordered from Cabo San Lucas. Two of the spinning Easter egg shaped trucks and a pumper truck came in stages but by the time the pumper was situated the concrete was two hours old. ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineering) says no truck over 1 1/2 hours old shall be accepted. I know from past experience that 2 hour trucks get poured but it’s not what you want to do. It was a very dry, difficult to work concrete that landed on our roof. Only time will tell if it’s adequate for the job. Most likely all is well and this is a case where ignorance would be bliss. I have no fears about the structural integrity but I do worry about the finish. Here, again, our location is an advantage. There is no freeze, therefore no thaw, and the concrete finish should not be heavily stressed.

On other fronts I was laid low by a severe bout of vertigo last week. It’s happened before and it’s never fun but this time I projectile vomited. Surprisingly easy to do when your inner ear isn’t working. The ear doctor hear ordered me onto a no salt diet. My ear seems to hurt less, and my fingers are skinnier. I guess I was retaining water. The vertigo is lessened but not gone. It might take weeks.

We have a show next week and we’ve been regularly practicing with our friend Priscila. Check us out on Valentine’s Day at Las Fuentes, 6 PM, Todos Santos. Love gone good and bad.

The roof with a skim coating of mortar.
The roof with a skim coating of mortar. The drainage bulge is visible.
Show at Las Fuetes on Valentine's Day.
Show at Las Fuetes on Valentine’s Day.
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Week 4 of casita construction

Lumber is installed to support the plywood forms.
Lumber is installed to support the plywood forms.

Soon we will have a roof over our casita. Yes, Kevin, I call it a casita because it’s just a one-bedroom home. There’s no room for guests but that won’t be a problem. We have the rumpus room for any visitors. Hint, hint. For those of you concerned about construction management while we are gone for ten days I say you are right to be concerned. We’re pretty relaxed about this but there is no telling what might or might not happen. The Gypsy Carpenters often work in similarly unsupervised conditions with very few problems. We’re extending the same trust to our team that we enjoy from our clients. In addition, our neighbor and good friend Janet will be serving as the treasurer. She can give the guys money if they need any supplies while we are gone. Janet knows our team, she speaks Spanish, and she is right next door. She will be well compensated for any work she has to do on our behalf. The job should be at the plaster and stucco stage so there’s not much that could go wrong. Famous last words, right?

The construction technique for the ceiling has finally come clear in my head. I was confused for years about how insulation and concrete and rebar came together to form a roof. and ceiling. Rebar and insulation are built over plywood forms in a matrix. Concrete is poured over the mass to a thickness of 2″ above the rebar. After two weeks of curing the forms are removed and the bottom (ceiling side) is a grid of  reinforced concrete and styrofoam. They call this style of roof caseton. Maybe casaton. I’m not sure. When the forms are  removed the underside is then plastered. My fears of concrete landing on my head during a Baja earthquake were unfounded. This is a well reinforced structure. If a big earthquake hits only plaster will rain down. I feel better. Were you worried? Our workers tell us only the gringos and really rich Mexicans get a caseton roof. Most families here live under simple concrete slabs or corrugated metal roofs. These homes can be unspeakably hot in summer.

Oh, btw, our workers built that brick colored house behind ours in the photos.

The plywood rests on teh temporary beams.
The plywood forms will rest on the temporary posts and beams.
This styrofoam insulation is crammed into the spaces between courses of rebar.
This styrofoam insulation will be crammed into the spaces between courses of rebar.
The styrofoam blocks are installed after the perpendicular courses of rebar are run.
Here you can see the plywood forms are in place. The styrofoam blocks are installed after the perpendicular courses of rebar are run.
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Week 3 of Casita Construction

Panoramic view of the job. This is about a week ago.
Panoramic view of the job. This is about a week ago.

Progress continues at a most satisfactory pace here in El Pescadero. Our team works with minimal oversight and zero drama. Every day Burt meets with them in the morning to discuss material needs. If something must be bought Burt goes and takes care of it while the guys get to building. Typical daily purchases are some combination of sand, gravel, block, cement, or water. There’s a limited amount of storage on our lot so materials come in only as they are needed.

Reinforced concrete beams have been poured to support the slab that is both ceiling and roof. It’s not just a roof, it’s a floor too. Our roof top will be accessible for viewing  your enjoyment. Until someone builds on the lot south of us we have a clear view of the dancing humpback and gray whales. A few years ago Burt used to be able to see the surf break with binoculars but that view has since been obliterated by beach level condos. He uses the internet now to decide if he should go surfing. The roof, ceiling, floor…the slab will be insulated with blocks of styrofoam. I can’t quite envision how this is done. I’ll be sure to pay attention and let you know. Today temporary scaffolding is being installed to support the plywood forms for the concrete. The big slab pour should be very, very soon.

The beams are formed and poured.
The beams are formed and poured.
These beams will support the roof/ceiling.
These beams will support the roof/ceiling.
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Temporary Residency Complete

Laminated card
Laminated card

It’s official, we’re official. Burt and I have achieved temporary resident status in Mexico and not a day too soon. When I initiated our visa application process I didn’t realize that being in limbo between application and achieving residency would come with certain complications. One complication is you can’t leave the country without special permission. Another is the banks don’t like letting you do business. We’re running through pesos faster than Olive can eat a chocolate bar and having banking difficulties threatens our building project. Add to that Dad having debit card issues and using us as his money changer and suddenly we had a payroll to meet and no moolah to spare. The first transfers we made this year came with the surprise that we needed both a visa and a passport to make the transfer. In years past we only needed a passport. Two times they let us get away with showing the letter saying our visas were in process. Two weeks ago we finished the visa process but our laminated cards weren’t ready. We were issued a temporary visa, a piece of paper with our new ID number and photo. It says we are temporary resident of Mexico and has the Mexican equivalent of our social security number. Immigration said to use the piece of paper in the interim if any one wanted to see our visa. Burt took this to the bank expecting to get money. He got nothing but the news that it would not work. We needed our laminated card.

That sick feeling of being here with no access to money settled upon us. We have a team of 5 people expecting payday. We got debit card-less dad with no pesos asking for a loan. The cards were due to be done either today or by the end of next week. I had to put aside my fear of Spanish on the phone and call immigration to see if our cards were available. I hate this kind of thing. I was calling a day earlier than the earliest due date to be a pushy gringa asking for my card. It all went super smoothly. My card was ready. Sus tarjetas estan aquí. Muy bien.

Long story short: we drove to La Paz, got our card, drove home, got money, gave some to dad. Our workers will get paid on Saturday.

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Oh! My aching back!

Campfire
Campfire

On the upside I can say black cohosh seems to have knocked the night sweats down by half. I am sleeping better. On the downside, I threw out my back. Again. This must be the fourth time in two years. I’m getting demoralized. I had a nice adjustment yesterday that decreased the pain but was no miracle cure. I have to wonder if there is a more serious underlying injury.

Despite the constant pain, the kind of pain that makes me realize why we have an opioid epidemic, we went camping last Saturday. The four of us piled in the Exploder and drove a couple of hours into the wilds of Baja for a night on a vacant beach with a few hundred birds on a nearby water hole. Dolphins surfed the sunlit waves as grebes dove for dinner. Burt warned up rabbit stew on a drift wood fire. I wandered restlessly finding comfort nowhere except in distraction. At twilight scores of lesser nighthawks came to clear the air of mosquitoes. Their long narrow wings materialized out of nowhere and within ten minutes had disappeared again. A few hundred mourning doves flushed from nearby scrub while we walked to the water hole’s edge.

The next morning we watched avocet and frigates and coots and yellowlegs and all their buddies feed. The rainy summer and fall have provided lots of habitat for overwintering birds. This month we’ve spotted 101 species. That’s nearly half of all the species I’ve ever seen in the Baja. Quite a start to 2019 and a good distraction.

Dog pile in the tent.
Dog pile in the tent.
The skeleton of an old light house.
The skeleton of an old light house.
flor
flor
Flower
Flower
Firelight flatters Ollie.
Firelight flatters Ollie.
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